Page 14


Milagros, Retablos and Arte Popular FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD 209 CONGRESS AVEAUSTIN 512/479-8377 OPEN DAILY 10-6, FREE PARKING BEHIND THE STORE continued from page 20 when I started to go numb. At this moment in time, the world is a terribly bleak place. Iraq, Sudan, the arc of destruction in the Indian Ocean, Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation, pervasive Republican gloating, Donald Rumsfeld’s astonishing job security, Tom DeLay, Texas, Texas, Texas… all of these grim themes legitimately beg the question: Why lend journalistic air time to the soap opera that is Jennifer and Kevin? Well, truth be told, Cohen’s brother-in-law, who is a good friend, gave me her book hoping that I’d lend it some ink. He did so with a look that said, “Hey man, if you bang it up I’d understand,” adding that “her own mom couldn’t read it.” Then The New York Times gave it a half-page review, not a bad one, and so I looked inside. I quickly started to write lots of snarky remarks in the margins \(“oh god,”; “boothe book to be just a bit too indulgent, a tad special, and a perfect title for the Times’ newly puffed-up book section, a venue that’s currently trying too hard to be hip and cutting-edge rather than its old and stodgy literary self. Funny thing was, though, damn, I kept rushing back to itactually doing so once while stuck in traffic on I-35to find out what kind of ridiculous move Cohen would next make. I was, in spite of myself, in spite of the shaky writing, consumed. I was a well-bred, well-educated, well-heeled, and well-packaged honky reduced to being intrigued by the boring troubles of another honky. Which, I suppose, is precisely what the acquisitions editor at the University of Wisconsin Press support all those stuffy books that sell about 300 copies apiece because they lack descriptions of a sexual act on the bus to rehab. Whatever literary value Cohen’s episode fails to achieve is really beside the point. In a weird way, in fact, the amateurish writing enhances the story, intensifying Cohen’s tender vulnerability. The paradox is that this book went against my instincts but, somehow, piqued them enough to barrel me through the woe-is-me breakup. Could it be that humans are more interested in the mundane lives of mundane people who have a fair amount of mundane baggage in common with them? If so, Cohen milks that sad impulse for all it’s worth. Knowingly or not, she has mastered the art of honky trouble lit. As for what she did on the bus, well, see if you can resist reading all about it. James E. McWilliams will spend the next few months repairing his friendship with the guy who suggested he review this book. write dialogue The Texas Observer 307 IN 7th St. Austin, IX 78701 [email protected] …to loose the chains of injustice… -Isaiah 58:6 AMERICAN CHURCHES and the PALESTINIANS February 11 and 12, 2005 Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 100 East 27th Street Austin, Texas 78705 presented by’The Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel-North America & Pax Christi USA For more information: click on Conferences or Email: [email protected]; Monday Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ruin Naga International Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. 3601 S. Congress of f E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check our site for monthly calendar 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 4, 2005